Second mosque torched in West Bank


Palestinian women in front of a wall with Hebrew graffiti inside the mosque which extremists torched and vandalized in the village of Burka near Ramallah on December 15, 2011.


Abbas Momani

A mosque in the Palestinian West Bank village of Burqa was set on fire late Wednesday night, in the second such attack blamed on Jewish extremists in two days.

Arsonists poured gasoline over the Al-Noor mosque before setting it alight in the middle of the night, local governor Laila Ghanam told the Associated Press. Chairs and carpets were burnt before the fire could be extinguished.

As in Tuesday's attack on the Nebi Akasha mosque in Jerusalem, graffiti in Hebrew was left on the building's walls. The word "war" and the name of a Jewish settlement due to be demolished, Mitzpe Yitzhar, were written in red paint, according to the AP. Israel Defense Forces razed two structures at the settlement early Thursday morning, YnetNews reported.

Burqa village is located within a kilometre of Migron, a settler outpost which is due to be demolished early next year, the BBC noted.

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Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, called the attack as "a declaration of war by the settlers against Palestinians," reported Palestinian news agency WAFA. The Israeli government should be held responsible for the violence, Abu Rudeineh said.

Israel "unequivocally condemns" the recent spate of attacks, government spokesman Mark Regev told the AP, describing them as "vigilante violence" and promising to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Israeli president Shimon Peres, who held a meeting on the issue with settler representatives Thursday, described the attacks as "very serious," reported Haaretz:

"Israel has always been proud of protecting all of the holy sites. Today, when the Muslim world is where it is, to give them justification to attack Israel is a disaster, it's crazy and it must stopped."

One of the settler leaders invited to Thursday's meeting, Danny Dayan of the Yesha Council of West Bank Settlements, said most settlers were opposed to violence. He referred to "a trend of incitement" against Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, however, a trend which he called on the Israeli president to halt.

The so-called "price tag" attacks, apparent retribution against Palestinians and Israeli authorities for the demolition or restriction of Jewish settlement building, have prompted the Israeli government change their anti-terrorism laws to include tougher measures against Jewish extremists. As of Wednesday, suspects in acts of Jewish terror will be tried in military courts, as Palestinian terror suspects are.

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